Ernie Paragallo, a prominent New York Thoroughbred breeder and trainer has been convicted of mistreating dozens of malnourished horses. Paragallo was convicted March 10 of 33 of 34 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts in a non-jury trial.
The 52-year-old Long Island resident was charged after authorities raided his 500-acre farm in Coxsackie in April and seized 177 malnourished horses.
Paragallo could face up to two years in jail and $35,000 in fines. His lawyer says he'll appeal the convictions announced by a judge March 10. The owner/breeder testified the week of March 1 that he didn't know the horses weren't being fed enough.
“Race horses--whether they are in training, retired from racing, or in active competition at our tracks--must be properly cared for in accordance with the laws of the State of New York,” said John Sabini, chairman of the New York Racing and Wagering Board and the state’s Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund, in a statement. “The verdict issued today by Greene County Judge George Pulver Jr. sends a message that serious consequences await those who fail to provide proper care and sustenance to horses.
“All of us involved in the regulation of pari-mutuel wagering have a duty to ensure that the horrendous conditions found at Center Brook Farm in April 2009 never again manifest themselves in the barns and pastures of New York State.
“This is why the Racing and Wagering Board acted swiftly last year in revoking Ernest Paragallo’s right to participate in New York racing. It is also why I urged my colleagues on the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund to craft a new inspection program and institute other reforms designed to further safeguard horses from neglect and abuse.”
Paragallo had no comment as he left court.
Michael Howard, Paragallo's lawyer, called the verdict disappointing and surprising and said he would appeal the convictions.
"This requires a horse owner to take on a very high level of burden,'' he said.
Ron Perez, director of the Hudson Greene Humane Society, said he was pleased with the verdict.
"This is going to set a precedent for animal cruelty cases across the country," said Perez, who took part in the raid that uncovered underfed and parasite-infested horses on Paragallo's 500-acre Center Brook Farm, about 20 miles south of Albany.
Paragallo has started more than 4,500 horses and earned more than $20 million in purses. After his arrest, the state Racing and Wagering Board suspended him from racing at New York tracks.
"This case was a shocker to the racing community," board spokesman Joe Mahoney said March 10. "People involved in racing love their horses. It's a rare exception that a farm owner would fall down on his responsibilities like this."